(What is this? Read here.)
Best Performance in a Quentin Tarantino Movie
In case you haven't noticed, this is actually a pretty tough category. Several actors and actresses have given career performances in Tarantino's films—Michael Madsen, Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Pam Grier, Robert Forster, Uma Thurman ...
Any one of whom would be a great choice. But I'm going with Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds. Smart, smarmy, sinister, he might be the only actor in history who could make you sweat bullets simply by eating a strudel.
Best Performance With a Serious Disease
Oscar loves this sort of thing, but generally speaking, the Monkey doesn't. If a cartoon character's performance counted, I'd go with the two-part breast cancer episode of FX's spy spoof Archer. But that's television and we're talking movies, so I'm going with Greta Garbo in Camille. She makes dying look so beautiful and stylish, I almost wish I had tuberculosis.
Best Performance Where You Do a Lot of A-C-T-I-N-G and Arm-Waving
Meryl Streep owns this category, but I'll be honest with you—outside of her latter-day comedies, Meryl Streep's not really my cup of tea. Acting may indeed be hard, but I've always thought the best actors made it look easy. I'll take Cary Grant over Laurence Olivier any day.
I do enjoy some of the great ham actors of history—particularly John Barrymore and Wallace Beery—but among cinema's more serious-minded scenery-chewers, I'm quite fond of Kirk Douglas. And my favorite Kirk Douglas performance is that of bottom-feeder tabloid journalist Chuck Tatum in Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole, quite possibly the most cynical movie ever made.
Best Performance Where You Just Sit There and Your Eyes Get Sad
Usually with a pop tune playing in the background—a staple of bad television. But at the risk of enraging Douglas Fairbanks, I have to say Lon Chaney, the silent era's man of a thousand faces, did more acting with his eyes than nearly anyone I can think of. Being buried under all that makeup, he had to.
He gave many great performances, including The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera, but maybe the one that depended the most on "sad eyes" was Laugh, Clown, Laugh, the story of an aging circus performer who raises an abandoned girl as his own only to find to his horror and his shame that when she grows to young womanhood he is falling hopelessly in love with her. A brilliant performance.
Best Performance With a Lot of Nudity That Was Probably Unnecessary But Not Unwelcome
The 1970s was the era of gratuitous nudity—at least one scene casually featuring bare breasts was pretty much de rigueur back then, especially in films that aspired to hip sophistication—but looking back at it now, the whole trend seems sexist, exploitative and even a bit creepy. So I'm jumping forward two decades to 1997's Titanic, a film that grossed something like a billion dollars, won the Oscar for best picture and has completely faded from my memory except for Kate Winslet's nude scene.
Bluenosed video store owners excised the footage from VHS copies of the movie without realizing Winslet's shapely bosom was the only part of the movie worth watching. I hope they at least had the good sense to stitch all that discarded tape together into a single endless loop.
Tomorrow: explosions, cross-overs, aging, manly tears and Citizen Kane.